Google Analytics. Its free. Its great for measuring basic web site performance. Recently however, some small free web analytics tools have appeared, looking to better their offerings. And in one area in particular… engagement. As many of us know, because of the rise in web 2.0 like videos and gagdets built in flash and AJAX, the industry can no longer rely on page views as a metric to indicate site popularity. In fact, in July 2007 Comscore and Nielsen both stopped using pageviews as the primary metric for comparing websites – yet still haven’t replaced it…
And the newer engagement metric (average time spend – ATS) that many industry specialists seem to be starting to use lately isn’t a very good replacement - just because a page has long ATS, doesn’t mean its a good thing. Many websites, even popular ones, are fraught with usability issues, that delay the length of time spent on these sites unnecessarily. Some sites don’t even have a site search still, which makes it even longer to find what you are looking for, extending ATS unfairly.
Plus, media websites will always have longer ATS, as they have a heavy concentration of photos/videos. Does this make these sites any more engaging or popular than a non-media website?
So step in these Web Analytics 2.0 free tools, which seem to be focusing on Google Analytics achilles heal – their lack of engagement metrics offerings. A company called Nuconomy has been getting rave reviews recently about their new tool, which enables users to create and see engagement metrics - specific to web 2.0 events like blogs, videos and community events, and correlate these to see how they influence visitors. Further still, it allows specific sites to come up with ‘formulas’ to measure total site engagement, comprising of weightable metrics like feed subscriptions, video plays, product ratings, posts and friend requests.
And another new web analytics 2.0 vendor just recently sprung up – Woopra. In particular their tool is specifically designed to be able to analyze more ‘engagement’ based websites like blogs. And industry giant Omniture is starting to understand elements of engagement – version 14 of Site Catalyst includes reporting for a key engagement metric – video plays and completions.
So watch out Google – hopefully their analytics product managers are noticing this ‘engagement’ tracking trend – and their recent ‘event’ tracking ‘hack’ doesn’t really cut the mustard either. They really need to get back to their roots, and remember how they got to where they are today – by building technologies and taking advantage of bleeding-edge markets (in their original case, search advertising), and applying them to the newer web analytics 2.0 world. Surely they could at least integrate RSS tracking from their recent purchase of Feedburner. Come on Google, get with the web analytics 2.0 times…
And as for a replacement for pageviews as the industry standard… its hard to use a blanket ‘engagement’ metric across all sites, but what about using an ‘engagement by vertical’ metric? This would combine different predetermined elements of engagement (like video plays, product reviews and article comments), depending on what industry the website belonged to - media versus ecommerce, for example. Seems like the most logical future standard metric to measure site popularity. Thoughts anyone? Anyone from Nielsen or Comscore reading? I can only hope